Two months ago, I wrote an op-ed about Title II. As of now, we face the very real possibility that there will be no such thing as Title II.
Among the pieces of Trump’s proposed budget is the intent to cut Title II funding from the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which is earmarked for professional development for educators. Mind you, the intent isn’t to scale it back, but to completely remove it.
As an educator, I only see two possible interpretations of this development:
- The new administration thinks that teachers are performing at such a high level, that the need for systemic professional development structures is unnecessary. Really, a form of high praise.
- The new administration thinks that regardless of whether public school teachers are good or bad, it isn’t worthwhile to invest in their improvement. Really, the administration couldn’t care less.
Gee, if I had to put money on one of those…
All great educators know that they still have room to improve. Sydney Chaffee, the current Teacher of the Year in my home state of Massachusetts, said in a recent interview, that when it comes to learning, “There’s always something to get better at—always something to learn.” If a professional who is being recognized as the very best at her craft feels that way, then surely many more, if not all educators look at professional development opportunities as ways to improve our own practice, to better serve our students every day.
Many school districts across the country are engaged in making such opportunities more relevant, practical and plentiful for educators, but the implementation that would rely on the Title II funding is now in jeopardy.
The natural question that follows is, why would the Trump administration want to strike such a deadly blow to the development of public educators?
What Countries Like Singapore Get Right
I started my teaching career in 2006. Since then, I have completed a master’s degree, and I’m planning to finish my doctorate within the next two years. I have spent my entire career learning more about education, to be a better teacher for my students, as have millions of teachers around the country. At no time, did I assume that there was a finite end to my development. In order for our students to compete in a global economy, teachers like me need to constantly innovate, and be supported as we gain new skills to do that.
We cannot just teach like we did 20 or 30 years ago, no more than a doctor, engineer or salesperson can perform their job today using the skills and technology from decades past.
Glassdoor’s list of the 25 Best Jobs of 2016 includes many jobs that parents would be proud to have their children have. When you look at the list, you see jobs that require high levels of skill and critical thinking, which in turn necessitate teaching practices to instill in students. Curiously, educator is not on the list in the United States, as it is in other nations.
What countries like Singapore get right is that they align their teaching goals with the goals of the national economy—so teachers are training students to fill specific needs that lead to the growth and welfare of the nation. Instead of cutting Title II, there should be resources used for the same alignment between education and economy across the entire United States.
If Trump is the businessman that he purports himself to be, this would be the connection on which I would think he would capitalize the most. His campaign mantra of running the country like a business should include the role of talent development. The $2.5 billion price tag on developing teachers to better develop students for the economy of tomorrow is a great deal. Of course, there should be accountability to manage waste, fraud and abuse. However, simply gutting the entire program does not help students in any way.
Professional learning is critical to the teaching profession. Without it, there is stagnation, burnout and turnover that costs this country over $2 billion per year. And when those teachers are gone, they are gone. The time, effort and money that went into training them vanishes into mid-air, leaving school districts to constantly rebuild their staffs. It also contributes to the narrative that teachers are overworked and underappreciated, which harms any recruiting efforts, and stops the best and the brightest from even considering teaching as a serious career.
Strong teachers know the value of good support structures and good professional learning. Trump should take a lesson from that.